Funding for drug and alcohol treatment axed in Cheshire
Drug and alcohol treatment services in Cheshire have had their budgets slashed by more than £1.5m while drug deaths across the region are the highest on record.
Freedom of Information requests reveal councils in the North West have cut funding for drug and alcohol treatment services to the tune of £16 million.
Cheshire West and Chester Council reduced its budget by £630,079, Cheshire East Council cut its funding by £615,636 and Warrington axed its support by £330,973.
Data provided by addiction treatment firm UKAT shows of the North West councils that responded, £89 million was being spent on helping those struggling with addiction in the community back in 2013.
But this number dropped to just £73 million this financial year, an 18% wipe-out of funds for substance misuse services helping the most vulnerable.
The worst offending councils include Lancashire and Manchester, which have both slashed budgets by £3.8 million each in the last six years, followed by Bolton which has reduced spend by £2.1 million, Rochdale by £1.6 million and Blackpool by £1.3 million.
Latest Office for National Statistics figures show that across these areas in particular, drug related deaths have risen by 20%, 11%, 46%, 10% and 27% respectively across the same time period.
Given eight councils failed to respond to the data request, experts at UKAT fear this figure could be even higher in real terms.
At the same time, UKAT asked the Care Quality Commission – the independent regulator of all health and social care services in England – how many public residential rehabilitation treatment centres were registered and open back across the North West in 2013 compared with this year to understand the impact these budget cuts were having.
There were 28 residential substance misuse services available in April 2013 but today only 23 remain open.
Eytan Alexander, managing director of UKAT, said: “Public residential rehabs regulated by the CCQ are reliant on referrals from their local councils funding patient treatment. If less money is being spent by local councils on placing those most vulnerable into treatment then we will undoubtedly see even more public rehabs having been forced to close their doors by this time next year.
“Not everyone can afford to pay for their addiction treatment, but everyone deserves to be treated and to be given a second chance at life. But at this rate, where will addicts living here go to get help?
“It is not a coincidence that as councils across the North West spend less on substance misuse treatment services, public rehabs close down and more and more people die. It feels like councils here have lost all humanity and we urge them to make better budget decisions next year.”
Across the North West, ONS data shows drug poisoning deaths have risen from 1,530 in 2012-14 to 1,835 in 2015-17 – a 20% rise – which coincides with the £16 million cut in public treatment services.